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Chris Bell

Manage Your Home Office Environment

While a global pandemic has obviously played an outsized role in changing how the average workplace employee gets their daily tasks done, the rapidly changing technology of the last few decades has made it very easy to escape the office. These changes do not just include email, but how easy it is to exchange emails no matter where you are, thanks to mobile phones.  While video-calls seemed like something from science fiction a decade or two ago, now it’s become something that is easy to set up (for the most part, and sometimes with amusing mistakes).

 Higher technology is not for everybody, and some people truly do enjoy or need the commute to a different location to get work done. There is no denying that where you sit can quickly become your office,  and this can offer plenty of advantages and challenges, so read on to learn some good things to consider.

Schedule to Go Outside!

It may seem odd that with this entire new freedom of where to work, the first bit of advice is to get away from it. This is because it might take some getting used to when working in the same place that you eat, sleep and relax. At first, just the idea of not having to commute very far makes the entire experience better, but it can certainly affect your timing. Now you are technically always ‘at work’, even beyond regular working hours. Maybe after supper, when you are typically watching tv, you are still hammering away at a project you would have left for the next day if you were working from an office space.

That’s why ‘being too close to work’ all of the time makes it hard to turn that part of your brain off. This can definitely lead to more stress, which you wanted to avoid, so the solution is to reverse the schedule. Now pencil in exercise or walks instead of meetings. Working out in the middle of the day can be a good stress reliever, and sometimes when not always thinking about work, you might suddenly have a breakthrough about work.

You can make social plans as well throughout the day, not just after work because that term doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to. Lunch can be the new happy hour, even if you’re in London and want someone to escort you to the restaurant that’s been getting rave reviews. 

Disconnecting will now become more popular than ever. Set aside time where you won’t even look at your phone, regardless of it being work or pleasure. And this doesn’t mean you have to go live in a forest for the afternoon, since now even watching some television is an escape from cyberspace.

A Proper Set Up

When working in an office, the computer, printer and desk (and cubicle walls, most likely) were all chosen for you. Nothing is as guaranteed when working from home, and depending on whether you are working for a large company or generally freelancing, who pays for the equipment you require can be up in the air. 

Certainly, if you are on the hook for the bill, you will try to get the biggest punch for your pound, which is a tightrope walk, because there is plenty of quality gear out there. Obviously, a proper laptop is the first item on the docket, and it is quite reassuring that video-conference apps like Zoom and Skype don’t take a lot of processing power. This means you can focus on a laptop that is best suited to your actual work. If you are doing writing first and foremost, word processors don’t require nearly as much power as photo editing, game development or engineering software.

Depending on your living space, having a separate room for your work can make a huge difference. Sitting in front of your television with your legs up on the coffee table and your computer on your laptop seems like a nice and relaxing setup, but it can take a lot of willpower to not watch match highlights. Unless you’re feeling under the weather, your bed isn’t much better, since its comfort can actually be detrimental to getting work done.

Proper Etiquette 

When you attend meetings through virtual platforms like ZOOM, you only have to get dressed up as much as your other co-workers can see via your camera. While working from home typically means a collared shirt will suffice as opposed to a suit and tie, make sure you’re wearing slacks or some sort of trouser if you have to get up from your chair. It is also good to keep in mind what people might be seeing behind your head. Sure, a white wall is rather dull but it is definitely preferred to a risqué painting, photo, or a strange trinket on a distant shelf. You should be focused on the video call, not the rest of your home.

When you start a sentence with ‘it should go without saying’, it means there are plenty of examples of people making the mistake, but you can’t expect every video call to go off without a hitch.  The best thing to do is to practice beforehand. Have a test call with a friend to make sure you don’t start the call on mute or think you hang up at the end but don’t actually do so. 

The right way to go about it when on the phone is to treat the moment from start to hang-up (and a little bit after) as if you are in a meeting room at an office. Also, to really make sure there is no chance of accidentally broadcasting anything you don’t want anyone else to see, close the lid of the laptop, or have a piece of tape handy to stick right over the camera. Sometimes the least technical solutions are the most efficient ones.